Joinville-Vignory Workshop - Retable with Scenes of the Passion, about 1425

Joinville-Vignory Workshop (French, active 1393 - 1442)

Retable with Scenes of the Passion, about 1425

Limestone, 78.7 x 274.3 x 21.6 cm (31 x 108 x 8 1/2 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Created for Guillaume Bouvenot and his wife Gudelette Bouvenot. These donors were buried with their son (d. 1424) in a chapel dedicated to Saint Barbara in the church of Saint Etienne, Vignory wherein a similar retable, with some elements identical to the Gardner retable, remains in situ. Both retables were comissioned from the same workshop, the so-called Joinville-Vignory workshop, likely at around the same time, about 1425. It is unknown whether the Gardner retable was created for another chapel within Saint Etienne or more likely another nearby church.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the collection of Emile Peyre, Paris (1828-1904) for 16,825 francs on 17 July 1897, through Fernand Robert, her regular agent in Paris.


Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 3. (as "French Gothic Stone Altar")
Anne O'Hagan. "The Treasures of Fenway Court." Munsey's Magazine (1906), p. 656, ill. (as French Gothic)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 61. (Northern French, 15th century, late gothic; slightly restored in stucco)
Helga D. Hofmann. "Die Vignory-Werkstatt: Neue Beitäge zum Umfang und zur Bedeutung einer Bildhauerwerkstatt des Weichen Stiles an der oberen Marne mit Ausstrahlung bis nach Nordlothringen." Beiträge zur Saarländischen Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte (1963), pp. 147-70, no. 11, pls. 48-49. (as workshop of the Vignory Passion Altar, about 1425, late gothic)
Léon Pressouyre. Review of Helga D. Hofmann, "Die Vignory-Werkstatt: Neue Beitäge zum Umfang und zur Bedeutung einer Bildhauerwerkstatt des Weichen Stiles an der oberen Marne mit Ausstrahlung bis nach Nordlothringen." Bulletin monumental (1964), pp. 399-404. (as from Lorraine, close stylistically to the Bouvenot Altar in Vignory)
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 8, no. 40 (6 Jun. 1965), p. 2. (as late gothic)
Helga D. Hofmann. "Eine Nachlese zur lothringischen Skulptur des 15. Jahrhunderts. I. Zur sog. Vignory-Werstatt." Beiträge zur Saarländischen Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte (1965), pp. 159-78. (as by the Vignory workshop)
Helga D. Hofmann. "L'atelier de sculpture de Joinville-Vignory (1393-1442)." Bulletin monumental (1969), pp. 209-22. (as by the Joinville-Vignory workshop)
Pam M. Peterson. "Restoration of a Retable from Lorraine." Fenway Court (1973), pp. 18-20, ills. 18-20. (as from Lorraine, end of the 1st quarter of the 15th century)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III et al. Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1977), pp. 81-83, no. 109. (as from Lorraine, about 1425; likely from the same workshop as the Saint Barbara altar in S. Etienne, Vignory)
Walter Cahn. "Medieval Sculpture" in James Thomas Herbert Baily (ed.). The Connoisseur: An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" (London, 1978), p. 24, no. 6.
Helga Schmoll et al. "Lothringen." Die Parler und der Schöne stil 1350-1400: Europäische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern (1978), pp. 272-73. (as by the Joinville-Vignory workshop)
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 144-45, ill. 145.
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), p. 28. (as French, southern Champagne or northern Burgundy, about 1425)

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This large, finely carved relief is composed of two limestone blocks. The carving, with its hard-edged lines, elegantly detailed hair, feline eyes, and flowing drapery, is of very high quality and refinement. The Crucifixion dominates the composition; it is flanked on either side by four arches. Kneeling donors and their patron saints fill the two arches at the ends, while the intermediate arches are filled with scenes from the Passion. The scenes read from left to right: a donor with John the Baptist, the Kiss of Judas, the Flagellation, Christ Carrying the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Deposition, the Three Marys at the Tomb, a donor with Saint Catherine. Above these scenes is a row of trompe l’oeil windows with prophets holding scrolls (which may originally have had painted inscriptions) looking out.

The form of the altar is modeled on the retable at Bessey-lès-Cîteaux carved by Claus de Werve in the late fourteenth century. Its design is closer still to that in the chapel of Saint Barbara in Vignory (Haute-Marne). Even the donors — identified by their coats of arms — are the same Guillaume de Bouvenot and his spouse Gudelette.

Source: Deborah Kahn, "Retable: Scenes of the Passion," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong, et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 28.